United States v. Tinklenberg

PETITIONER:United States
RESPONDENT:Jason Louis Tinklenberg
LOCATION: U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan

DOCKET NO.: 09-1498
DECIDED BY: Roberts Court (2010-2016)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

CITATION: 563 US 647 (2011)
GRANTED: Sep 28, 2010
ARGUED: Feb 22, 2011
DECIDED: May 26, 2011

Jeffrey L. Fisher – for the respondent
Matthew D. Roberts – Assistant to the Solicitor General, Department of Justice, for the petitioner

Facts of the case

Following a jury trial in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, Jason Louis Tinklenberg was convicted of possessing firearms after having been convicted of a felony and possessing materials used to manufacture methamphetamine. He was sentenced to 33 months of imprisonment, to be followed by three years of supervised release.

Before trial, the district court had denied Tinklenberg’s motion to dismiss the indictment for a violation of the STA. On appeal following Tinklenberg’s conviction, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit held that the trial court had indeed violated the act and remanded the case with instructions to dismiss the indictment with prejudice.


Is the time between the filing of a pretrial motion and its disposition automatically excluded from the deadline for commencing trial under the Speedy Trial Act?

Media for United States v. Tinklenberg

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – February 22, 2011 in United States v. Tinklenberg

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – May 26, 2011 in United States v. Tinklenberg

Stephen G. Breyer:

The first one, United States v. Tinklenberg involves the Speedy Trial Act of 1974, which requires that a criminal trial begins 70 days after the arraignment.

It then list a long set of exclusions from that 70-day count, so you have to have seventy non-excludable days.

Now, one of those exclusions — is “a delay resulting from any pretrial motion, from the filing of the motion through the conclusion of the hearing on, or other prompt disposition of such motions,” so it says, don’t suppose to exclude it, you get an extra plus the 70-days plus.

In this case, the Court of Appeals from the Sixth Circuit found that the 3(d) Act of — the Speedy Trial Act was violated.

There had more than seventy non-excludable days had passed.

Hence, but in doing that, it counted, that means it didn’t exclude several critical days following certain pretrial motions, and falling within the period “from the filing of the motion through the conclusion of the hearing on or other prompt disposition of the motion”.

Now, the Circuit reasoned that the particular pretrial motions at issue did not cause a delay in the beginning of Tinklenberg’s trial.

The trial began just for — and it would’ve begun without the pretrial motions, and the Court said that matters because the statutory language excludes only “delay resulting from pretrial motions.”

If there is no delay at recent, there is no exclusion.

In our view however, the words “delay resulting from” which are present at the beginning of almost every statutory phrase that announces an exclusion, do not require nor do they permit a judge to decide in each particular case whether a pretrial motion did, or did not in fact delay the beginning of the trial.

Rather, Congress did the deciding here.

It believed that the circumstances listed in the exclusion do normally cause delay, and it intended the periods of time specified in the exclusion before us following a pretrial motion to apply automatically, irrespective of whether the motion does or does not postpone the particular trial at issue in a particular case.

Now, we base that conclusion on the language of the statute, read in full context, and interpreted in light of its structure and purposes.

And we note that the Sixth Circuit’s contrary interpretation would make the statute much more difficult for trial judges to administer.

We also note that for the past several decades, all other circuits have interpreted the statute as we interpret it today.

Now, we go on to decide another issue, even though the respondent Jason Tinklenberg losses his argument about excluding pretrial motion days, he wins an offsetting claim.

He points out that the statute excludes days used to transport defendants to medical exams, but it says you can’t exclude more than ten of those.

But he will have more days spent transporting, and interpreting how many days in excess of ten were spent transporting Tinklenberg, days that were not excludable from the Speedy Trial Act 70-day count, add them on.

The Court did not count weekend days and holidays.

Well, I don’t know why they didn’t, we say.

And we agree with Tinklenberg that those weekend days and holidays are not excludable and they should count as part of the seventy days non-excludable days which passed before he went to trial.

So Tinklenberg consequently wins his basic claim that the Speedy Trial Act was violated.

We explain all these more thoroughly in our opinion.

As I said, we disagree with two separate aspects of what the Court of Appeals decided, that those two determinations that we find erroneous in a sense, cancel each other out.

And we consequently affirm the Court of Appeals ultimate finding of the Speedy Trial Act violation.

Justice Scalia has filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment in which the Chief Justice and Justice Thomas have joined.

Justice Kagan took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.